In the 18th century there were a large number of pubs, beer houses, tavern, inns and hotels catering for the local communities and the travelling public.
Carlton was home to many of Nottingham’s most notorious pubs, but unfortunately not many survived.
Pubs first started to appear when someone brewed more beer than they could themselves consume and opened their house to the public to sell off the surplus – hence the term ‘Public House’.
The indication that they had beer to sell was a bough or branch hung above the door, which became the first pub signs.
To distinguish between two similar establishments pieces of equipment, such as a plough, a hay rake or barrel were used next to the door. The population especially in the villages could not very often read and write at the time, so signs did not contain written names. They were therefore kept simple so that there would be no confusion between similar pubs. You did not want to arrange to meet some one at the wrong hostelry – especially if they were paying!
Some of the oldest pub name signs are therefore very simple: The Board, The Chequers, The Ball , The Boar and The Lamb and so on. They were normally represented by a simple symbol painted on board. A coloured circle or disk was common, like the Blue Ball or the Golden Ball for example. Although once very common only some 20 or so Golden Ball pubs survive in the UK, with some changing their name over time to The Sun.
The Golden Ball in Carlton is one of the ones that are now long gone. In the 1750s however, it was occupied by one Samuel Parley, who was the only landlord in his early 20s at the time. Landlords of pubs usually had to have a second job as the pub did not provided sufficient income to survive.
The pub itself was often being run by the wife while the husband carried out his other profession. Samuel at this time was not married and he may in fact have been the son of the landlord.
Most second jobs, carried out in the pub yard, were connected with the pub or hotel trade. Blacksmith, carpenter, wheelwright or horse dealer for example as pub customers would have need of these services. Samuel’s trade was different however, a very unusual one for some one operating from a pub. He was a florist, which as well as being unusual also appears to be very specialised. His trade was that of the wholesale sale of only one type of flower – the tulip.
These flowers were introduced into Western Europe and the Netherlands in the late 16th century, and had originated in Turkey.
In the beginning, tulips were cultivated for their medicinal properties but by the beginning of the 17th century, the tulip was starting to be grown in gardens as well for decoration.
The tulip soon gained major popularity not only for its medicine and beauty properties but as a trading product in its own right, especially in Holland.
The interest in the flowers was huge and bulbs were sold for unbelievable high prices.
In the years 1636/7 there was a complete “Tulipomania” in the Netherlands. Some examples of the plants could cost more than a house at the time..
There was the inevitable crash in prices at the end of 1637, when people came to their senses and stopped purchasing these high-priced bulbs. But throughout the 17th and 18th centuries, English interest in the tulip still remained, but the Dutch had by this time became the true connoisseurs and stockists.
We do not know how long Samuel had been trading in tulips but in 1750 he was advertising regularly in the Derby Mercury, offering “sales of multitude of varieties of at least 12 different kinds”. He stated that his stock was well over 2500. These were all being sold in quantities of hundreds and offered at “prices half those in London “.
For a time this must have been a good business for he was trading for over 10 years but then things changed.
Samuel it seems decided to get out of the tulip business in 1761 as he had then to give up the Golden Ball. He sold up his tulip stock, advertising them with an average price of 8/- per hundred, which is about £47 in today’s money.
His reason to sell up and leave the Golden Ball is unknown, but it might be down to his father dying.
Samuel did not leave the pub trade however, as three years later in 1764, at the age of 32, he married an Ann King and is listed on the wedding certificate as ‘a licensee’ but it does not state which pub he was running.
Was this perhaps a larger establishment which now took up all his time – or did his new wife just not like tulips?